State Politics

Three contenders qualify for special election to fill Miami state House seat

Florida House members line up to congratulate Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, after he addressed the chamber and his sons on his final day Monday May 8, 2017 at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.
Florida House members line up to congratulate Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, after he addressed the chamber and his sons on his final day Monday May 8, 2017 at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. AP

Two Republicans and one Democrat qualified by a Tuesday deadline to run in a special election this year that will determine who will replace Miami Republican Jose Felix Diaz in the Florida House.

The primary contest between Republicans Jose Mallea and Daniel Anthony Perez will be held July 25. The winner of that race will face off against Democratic newcomer Gabriela Mayaudon in the special general election on Sept. 26.

Those are the same dates when a special election for the District 40 Senate seat will also be held. Sen. Frank Artiles’ resignation in April from that seat — after an offensive and racist tirade against two senators — created a game of dominoes in Miami politics. Diaz resigned his District 116 House seat last month to run for Artiles’ seat, which sparked the need for the additional special election.

Mallea and Perez are already in a bitter primary battle. Perez, a 29-year-old attorney and first-time candidate, drew criticism last week from Mallea after the Miami Herald reported that Perez had taken his wedding engagement photos in Havana earlier this year.

Mallea, 40, once worked for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and was a senior adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. He quickly garnered Bush’s public support for his legislative bid.

Neither Mallea nor Mayaudon live in House District 116; Mallea lives in a part of Miami served by House District 112, and Mayaudon lives in Doral in House District 105.

To take office, they would be constitutionally required to move to the district by Election Day. Mallea previously told the Herald that he planned to move by June 15. Mayaudon did not express on Tuesday any short-term plans to relocate.

Mayaudon is a former Venezuelan legislator who said she moved permanently to South Florida seven years ago. She is a director of Rockhealth, Inc., a Medley company.

She registered to vote — as a Democrat — just this week. Her voter registration is still pending review by the Florida Division of Elections, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department said.

Mayaudon, 48, said she realizes she’s new to Florida politics, but she said it’s important for her to get involved here. “Now this is my country,” she said.

Officials with the Miami-Dade Democratic Party courted Mayaudon, among others, to run.

Ross Hancock, a potential Democratic primary opponent, withdrew from the race early Tuesday after Mayaudon qualified. He told the Herald/Times he initially ran only to ensure Republicans would have competition, and Mayaudon’s candidacy assured such a contest.

The House seat is competitive territory. Diaz won reelection in November with 62 percent of the vote, but in presidential contests, the district went for Democrat Hillary Clinton last fall and for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

This story has been updated to correct Gabriela Mayaudon place of employment.

Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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